The Week That Was in Baseball: September 1-7, 2008
Not an Empty Seat to be Found in Fenway—And Nary a Soul Seen at Dolphin Stadium
Baseball's First Video Review Sour Sixteen in Pittsburgh Sorry, CC


The Full Fenway...
The Boston Red Sox tied the major league record for most consecutive home sellouts by filling the park for the 455th time on Wednesday for the team’s comeback 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Weather notwithstanding, the 456th sellout will come on Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays, breaking the mark previously held by the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field from 1995-2001. As long as the Red Sox continue to play competitive baseball and Fenway Park retains its charm and continues to attract people from in and out of town, this streak will last about as long as Cal Ripken Jr.’s.

...And the Empty Miami
Certainly you’ve been shown a jar of jelly beans and challenged to guess how many are in there. It was kind of like that at Miami’s Dolphin Stadium on Wednesday, except players were trying to guess how many fans were in the ballpark. It didn’t take long to finish their counting. For the second straight year, a Florida Marlin game featuring two teams going nowhere in the standings on a hot, midweek September afternoon drew well under 1,000 curious souls, while roughly 10,000 others with tickets decided that the day would be better spent at work, school or with Oprah. The game was won by the Marlins over Atlanta, 5-3. It’ll be curious to see if similar conditions produce a similar crowd when the Marlins’ new ballpark is slated to open in 2011.

The Pitts
The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had a winning season, George Bush I was the President, Charlie Hough, Carlton Fisk and Nolan Ryan were all still playing, Tim Wakefield was a rookie and Barry Bonds was a MVP—for the Pirates. That was 1992. On Sunday, the Bucs lost at San Francisco, 11-6, to ensure their 16th consecutive season below the .500 mark—tying the major league record shared by the Philadelphia Phillies of 1933-48. Unless there’s an upswing of good fortune and/or player payroll for 2009, a 17th straight losing year is all but likely in poor ol’ Pittsburgh.

Arizona’s Stephen Drew and Seattle’s Adrian Beltre each hit for the cycle to become the first pair of players to achieve the feat on the same day since September 17, 1920, when Detroit’s Bobby Veach and the New York Giants’ George Burns both hit a single, double, triple and home run. Both Drew and Beltre ended their evenings with five hits apiece.

Never a Doubt
Last week we mentioned the achievement of Chipper Jones, who made it 14 straight seasons with 20 or more homers to the start his career. This past week, Albert Pujols hit his 30th of the 2008 campaign, extending a record he already owns for the most consecutive years to start a career with at least 30. With five more RBIs—and unless he goes 0-for-the-rest-of-September (he’s batting a major league-best .359)—he’ll have achieved eight straight years of at least 30 homers, 100 RBIs and a .300 batting average since he began playing at the big league level in 2001. At age 28, Pujols can quit now and be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Trembling Over Trembley?
Last year, on the day Baltimore gave interim manager Dave Trembley permanent status, the Orioles responded by allowing an all-time record 30 runs to the Texas Rangers. On Friday, the Orioles announced that Trembley would be back for 2009—and the pitching staff once more replied with its most atrocious showing of the year. Although the 11 runs given up by Oriole pitchers to Oakland hardly set any records, it was in the way they did it; they walked ten batters, five of them with the bases loaded, and hit two others. The nadir came in the eighth inning, when the A’s scored eight runs on one hit, a grand slam by Rajai Davis that capped the scoring. What made Baltimore’s pitching inabilities all the more embarrassing is that they came against the A’s, a team that has averaged barely three runs a game since the All-Star break.

Better Late Than Never
It took Scott McClain 19 years, but on Wednesday in Denver he finally hit his first major league home run in a rare call-up appearance at the big league level for the San Francisco Giants. It’s not that McClain lacks power; he has 284 minor league homers in addition to 71 produced during a four-year stint in Japan, including 39 in 2001 for Seibu. Before his call-up, the 36-year old had logged just 45 career major league at-bats with only six hits; his home run on Wednesday was part of a 3-for-5 day in the Giants’ 9-2 win over the Rockies. (McClain hit his second homer on Saturday against Pittsburgh.)

Wounded of the Week
This week’s list of the newly disabled is highlighted by the umpteen-hundredth example of why it’s not smart to take on an inanimate object—because you'll never win. Actually, Carlos Quentin’s story is a bit of a twist within this genre; his self-inflicted injury was not the result of trying to punch out an ice machine or a locker, but rather from tapping his bat a bit too hard against his right hand while at the plate against Cleveland pitcher Cliff Lee on Monday. The banging of the bat against hand is something Quentin claimed he had done thousands of times before—but he said that, this one time, the bat made just the right kind of contact to break a bone. And now because of this, Quentin is likely to miss the rest of the season; without his presence, the Chicago White Sox are wondering if they’ll have the gas to hold off the Minnesota Twins and win the AL Central title. Quentin’s injury may also cost him the AL home run crown—he currently leads with 36—and a shot at the league’s MVP award, for which he was considered a favorite.


Reviewed For the Very First Time
The first video review in major league history occurred this past Wednesday at St. Petersburg when the Tampa Bay Rays disputed a home run hit by Alex Rodriguez down the left field line. The arbiters took a look at the replay on a digital TV screen and upheld their own call. The review added two minutes to a game that ended up lasting three hours and 31 minutes; Rodriguez’s home run otherwise added no significance to an 8-4 New York Yankee triumph over the Rays.

CC Denied
In a more traditional kind of review—the one that MLB replies, “we’ll get back to you in a few days”—the Milwaukee Brewers’ request to turn CC Sabathia’s one-hitter on August 31 at Pittsburgh into a no-hitter was denied, leaving Sabathia just a disputed infield hit short of his first career no-no. MLB, which actually has a scoring review committee—perhaps it’s just an executive who pops his head out the door and shouts, “anyone want to help me decide a little something?”—officially declared that the ruling by Pittsburgh scorer Bob Webb, in which he contended that the Pirates’ Andy LaRoche probably would have beat out an infield grounder even had Sabathia cleanly fielded it, was not “clearly erroneous.” Had the ruling been reversed, Sabathia’s gem would have become the second no-hitter in Brewer history—and the most belated in major league history. 

Mind Your Count
Boundary calls are one thing, but should MLB also consider replay for the umpires’ ability to keep a pitching count accurate? In what’s beginning to be a once-a-year occurrence (usually late in the season when the focus is starting to lag from those on the field) a player struck out—on a 4-2 pitch. The batter was Los Angeles of Anaheim’s Sean Rodriguez, who drew the count to 2-2 during the fourth inning of Thursday’s game at Detroit before Tiger catcher Brandon Inge asked Tim Welke what the count was. Welke thought it was 1-2, Inge happily agreed, the scorekeeper was notified by Welke to change the board to 1-2—and neither Rodriguez nor anyone else on the Angels noticed. After Rodriguez drew the count officially full at 3-2—and unofficially overloaded at 4-2—he struck out. The gift strikeout for Detroit didn’t help their cause, losing to the Angels, 7-1.

Chasing Thigpen
Francisco Rodriguez can almost smell it now. The fiery closer for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim saved his 55th game of the year on Sunday, bringing him to within two of the all-time record set by Bobby Thigpen of the Chicago White Sox in 1990. It was in Chicago where Rodriguez blew his sixth save of the season on Saturday, a game that finished with a White Sox victory in the 15th inning. Rodriguez has 20 regular season games left to collect three saves and break the record.

Discounted Pricing For a Discounted Team?
While the New York Yankees will be jacking up ticket prices at the New Yankee Stadium—with some bleacher seats tagged at $100—the Washington Nationals announced this past week that they’ll be lowering costs for some of their seats in 2009. The Nationals have averaged 29,000 fans per game in their first year at Nationals Park, but like in our note above regarding the Marlins, there’s been a healthy abundance of no-shows not coming to the ballpark, especially in the latter half of a season in which the Nationals are headed toward 100-loss territory.

Feeling Down? Face the Giants
Pittsburgh pitcher Zach Duke became the latest example of this year’s adage that, when all else fails on the mound, get yourself a start against the San Francisco Giants. The team that has allowed Mike Hampton two quality starts, help end the Florida Marlins’ record streak of non-complete games when Ricky Nolasco pitched a two-hit shutout against them, and even made the recently and utterly battered Livan Hernandez look good in two consecutive starts against them, helped Duke earn his first win in three months covering 15 starts when he tossed a six-hit shutout against the Giants at AT&T Park. Since his last win on June 9, Duke had gone 0-9 with a 6.16 ERA, a rough extension of a career gone mostly bad (17-36 from 2006-08) after looking so impressive with his abbreviated rookie showing in 2005.

What Triple-A Will Do For You
At the end of June, Philadelphia starting pitcher and clubhouse leader Brett Myers was struggling so badly—he was 3-9 with a 5.84 ERA—that the Phillies sent him to the minors. It appears that this bit of shaking up was the tonic that Myers needed. Since returning to the Phillie rotation on July 23, Myers is 6-1 in nine starts with a 1.55 ERA.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Adrian Beltre has been smoking the ball at such an intense and consistent rate of late, someone may need to remind him that his contract isn’t up until after next season. Anyway, Beltre's 13-game hitting streak to end this past week is the longest active such run in the majors; he’s hitting .463 since the streak began on August 24.

Now Playing on TGG
Check out Ed Attanasio’s entertaining chat with one-game-wonder Stefan Wever in TGG's latest installment of the They Were There section. Also new this week, in our Opinion section, is Eric Gouldsberry's look at baseball's infatuation with bronze statues.

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.